While huge corporations are leveraging big data and behaviour tracking solutions to optimise every last inch of their operational costs, small businesses hardly need go so far - the cost of deploying intricate analysis systems far outweighs the benefits it could yield for middle-sized entrepreneurs.
But that doesn’t mean small businesses and corporations live in completely different worlds. Technology is infiltrating every nook and cranny of the modern office. Old processes die out or get reinvented because of it (just look at how the Reception Desk has changed). In “Sapiens”, Yuval Noah Harari argues that the quality of life - be it personal or work-related - has not improved much with the invention of better tools. But that’s a tough argument to make - sure, if you look at our modern ailments (like the rise of chronic lower back pain), you could say that we’re worse off than we were decades ago. However, technology has helped us feed more people at lower prices and at a faster rate and famine has lost much of its grip on humankind. And, when used right, it’s done away with menial tasks. To that end, we’ve scoured the web and identified 6 key tasks that almost any business that involves office work is most likely to want to automate or simplify with technology to save time. Some repetitive tasks can be scheduled to recur on their own.
1. Appointment Scheduling
We’ve written about this extensively in another blog post, so we won’t go over it again - if you happen to hold a lot of meetings, you tend to spend (read: waste) a lot of time on scheduling meetings via email or phonecall. Assuming it takes you 10 minutes to agree with someone on a date and time and you do this at least once a week, using an appointment scheduling tool can save you around 40 minutes every month. Just make sure you want to attend all those meetings - they’re quite the costly bunch.
2. Meeting room scheduling
This is something YAROOMS can help you with - there’s no point in setting up 50 meetings with identical details and start/end times. Set it up as a recurring meeting, choose the recurrence type and save yourself the trouble. Looking for a room, inviting people and selecting the time and date can take you around 1 minute/ booking. Let’s assume you don’t have more than 5 such meetings every month (hopefully).
3. Email scheduling
There are 3 big players in the email-client business - Gmail (Google Apps for Business), Thunderbird and Outlook. And there are times when you want to send an email, but not right away - you need to delay it somehow; maybe it’s the end of the day, or you’ve finished a task faster than you were expecting and you want to take a break before resuming work (we don’t judge) or work with someone on a different timezone and you want to make sure they get your email when they’re most likely to notice it and reply to you. You can delay your message in Gmail by using Boomerang, in Thunderbird with Send Later or in Outlook with this quick tweak. If you use Boomerang, you can even automate email reminders and shave off an extra 5 minutes/ month.
4. Task scheduling
Managing your own time can be way more difficult than managing others’. We’re divided on what the best tool for task scheduling is, but you can’t go wrong with Remember the Milk, Wunderlist or Trello. Sure, you can use Basecamp or Jira, but if you just want something for your own tasks, you don’t need them.
5. Social Media Posts Scheduling
Chances are your company has at least 1 social profile it maintains. Over the years, we’ve discovered that it’s quicker to plan ahead, write your content and then schedule it with Hootsuite, Buffer or SocialOomph. The greatest advantage to this is that you can batch-test multiple posting hours and see when your audience is most likely to engage with you.
6. Invoice Scheduling
This can be complicated, but your accountant/ financial rep might love to hear about it - automating invoices. If your services work on a subscription model or you have a retainer fee in place with one of your clients, you’re bound to generate identical invoices month after month. Luckily, there are some solutions for that - tools like Xero, Freshbooks or Zipbooks are a boon for end-of-the-month invoicing.
Over to you - what scheduling tools does your small business use?